NiTRO Creative Matters

Perspectives on creative arts in higher education

Edition 13, 2018 – The impact and value of tertiary and creative arts

Why is the case for the arts so frequently made in terms of its economic impact, as if the other benefits are of lesser importance, not least those that flow from the engagement with them by individuals?

‘I know what it feels like to be a refugee and to experience the dehumanisation that comes with displacement from home and country. There are many borders to dismantle, but the most important are the ones within our own hearts and minds – these are the borders that are dividing humanity from itself’   - Ai Wei Wei

In the contemporary climate, education contexts are becoming increasingly heterogeneous and multicultural spaces. This diversity presents teachers, students and communities with exciting opportunities, but also creates complex challenges to navigate and understand.

As a long time advocate of the economic value of creative industries, I have been interested in researching if creative clusters can drive regional economic development.

I can’t help thinking contemporary art is an endangered species in the contemporary university. Within the institution’s overly prescribed research mandates, researchers (who ten years ago used to be called artists) need to align themselves with research clusters and groups and the strategic plan of the corporate university - Contemporary art is a difficult fit for university metrics. And perhaps that’s the point.

Until I started teaching a re-invented capstone Creative Writing subject called ‘Encounters with Writing’ at the University of Melbourne in 2016, I had never given the relationship between my small corner of the academy and the community at large much thought. I had always thought of these as two separate spheres ...

As the world eases itself out of a global recession, while remaining in an era of government austerity measures and public sector funding cuts, many arts organisations find themselves increasingly focused on proving their worth and value to funders. All too often the proof that is sought when evaluating an arts or cultural project and tends to be a quantitative assessment of its impact, judged in terms of hard measures enumerating number of attendees or participants, or ticket receipts against expenditure.

"Where’s the evidence?" Entertainment Assist (EA) received a fairly typical pollie response when they raised the mental health problems present in the Australian entertainment industry. Yet as Susan Cooper, EA General Manager discovered, "apart from a couple of studies in the UK and US there was nothing - no whole-of-industry study on what was impacting in the industry not only for Australia but internationally".